Cobwebs, Walkers and Lace: AMC Networks Has Franchise Fever With Anne Rice and ‘The Walking Dead’

·3-min read

AMC Networks is a few months away from launching what programming chief Dan McDermott calls “the biggest venture we’ve ever embarked upon from the ground up.”

The company that proudly bills itself as a high-end TV boutique is preparing to unleash this fall a TV series adaptation of “Interview with the Vampire.” AMC hopes it will become the cornerstone in a prosperous content franchise rooted in the Southern Gothic milieu based on the works of the well-loved novelist Anne Rice.

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On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” McDermott details the world-building process that began after the company struck a wide-ranging rights deal in May 2020 to develop all manner of content from 18 notable Rice books. The pact is a good example of how TV has become so competitive that art of development is fielding Marvel-level interconnected storytelling universes involving multiple series and other content extensions, from gaming to podcasts to internet shorts. It’s not the pilot season of old anymore.

“I envision us getting five to seven series over the next five or six years up on their feet, each one running four to six seasons, with primary main characters featuring significant stars that will get our universe up and on its feet for the next five to 10 years,” McDermott says.

Also in production at present is “Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches,” another one of the better-known titles from the famously eccentric scribe who died in December 2021 at the age of 80. McDermott said “Mayfair,” will be out “pretty soon” after “Interview.” It’s a brick-by-brick development process that is “thrilling” for an executive who came up through Fox Broadcasting Co. and DreamWorks and has also worked as a producer. He joined AMC Networks in March 2020.

“You have to develop supporting characters underneath those significant leads that can, and this is a process of discovery, some of these are in the books, some of these might be new characters, some of these might be characters that you have a small role and the books but would be created to have an oversize impact in a series, but that can ultimately after two or three seasons, or four seasons, spinoff and become the lead of their own series,” he says. “And then then you really start having fun, because then you then you can start pulling characters from different shows.”

McDermott’s range of experience in programming and production gives him good perspective on how the content industry is changing. He was drawn to AMC Networks by the company’s clear vision for how to position itself as a smaller player in a land of giants.

“We’re not competing with any of those other streamers. We’re complementary with them,” McDermott says. “Our value proposition is we aspire to be the best platform in the world at delivering premium marquee content for adults. That’s the only lane we swim in. We don’t do kids. We don’t do animation, sports, news, all that sort of stuff. We just want to live in the world of premium marquee content for adults.”

McDermott contrasts the building phase on the Rice franchise with the work the company is doing now on winding up orginal “The Walking Dead” series later this year. The graphic novel-inspired fantasy series has been a pillar of AMC’s schedule since 2010, inspiring multiple spinoffs to date. And on the other end of the spectrum, AMC is also putting energy into crafting lower-budget shows for its niche streaming services like Acorn TV, Sundance Now and Shudder.

McDermott says the growing portfolio of niche streaming players is becoming a meaningful business for AMC Networks. “They don’t go broad but they go incredibly deep,” he says of the viewership of the narrowly targeted services.

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud. Click here to subscribe to Variety‘s free “Strictly Business” newsletter.

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